Child-Welfare System Flooded; Group Reports Judges Are Frustrated by Numbers

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many judges say they are frustrated by the sheer volume of child-welfare cases they are expected to handle daily.

"There are too many cases to handle ... and that delays permanency" for a child, said retired Juvenile Court Judge Nancy Sidote Salyers, who is co-director of Fostering Results, a group dedicated to child-welfare reform.

This spring, Fostering Results, the National Center for State Courts and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges surveyed more than 5,100 judicial officers on child-welfare practices in their courts.

The confidential survey included more than 2,200 judges - a remarkable response, Judge Salyers told a Capitol Hill press conference last week.

About 52 percent of judges agreed that the biggest obstacle to resolving placements for neglected and abused children was "overcrowded court dockets."

Judge Salyers, who once had 6,000 cases on her docket in Cook County, Ill., empathizes with her colleagues.

With 6,000 cases, she said, "how much time could I have spent with each individual child?"

Other top concerns for the judges were a lack of social programs for troubled families, ill-prepared social workers and lawyers, and insufficient time for each court hearing.

Fostering Results is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Children and Family Research Center in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. …